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Top 5 Marketing Must Haves Any Hotel Can Afford

Just because a hotel may not have a $50,000+ marketing budget, it doesn't mean that its marketing department can't compete effectively and build a strategic plan that includes website updates, guest reviews, mobile marketing, social media monitoring and management, and reputation management. For a small investment, Lodging Interactive, a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, can cost-effectively provide hoteliers with these "Top 5" digital marketing elements that are key to building online awareness and maintaining a competitive edge in 2014.

"You don't need a lot of money to have an effective digital marketing program," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "Instead, hoteliers with limited budgets simply need a partner with proven and award-winning digital content and creative skills . . . an advisor that can easily extend its expertise from the Web to mobile and social media programs . . . and a hospitality  specialist that can provide initial consulting, supplemental assistance or a total outsourced program with pricing and program flexibility to make it successful. All that and much more — from building quarterly landing pages and Facebook widgets to creating online videos and email marketing campaigns — is available affordably today through Lodging Interactive."

Lodging Interactive has identified five elements as must-haves for hotels with limited budgets in 2014, and offers affordable programs for supporting each of these mission-critical items.

1.  Website Updates:  So you have a website. Good. When was the last time you refreshed its content? Continually adding new photos makes the website more visually appealing. Is the site interactive? Updating content to include press releases and blogs that are linked to your hotel’s various social media channels will ensure more chatter and visibility. Are you reaching your intended audience? Someone needs to be accountability to ensure that the web page is meeting goals. If a limited budget includes limited human capital, seek the expertise and assistance of an outside digital marketing agency that specializes within the hospitality industry.

Through Lodging Interactive's Hotel Website Solutions program, hotel marketers can refresh their web site every two years, at no additional cost, PLUS they receive:

• RFPLink group lead capture and reporting
• Online analytical reporting
• Homepage call-to-action tile images
• Website Hosting and Server Management
• Robust Content Management, and
• Guest Review System at no additional cost.

2.  Guest Reviews: A June 2013 Local Consumer Review Study reveals that 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. If that's not a compelling enough reason as to why a review program should be part of the hotel's website, consider this: The latest Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report, which surveyed more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries, found that 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. Nearly six-in-10 global online consumers (58 percent) trust messages found on company websites, and half trust email messages that they signed up to receive.

Lodging Interactive offers a turn-key Guest Review System that gives travelers a place to post reviews and score their hotel experiences based on service attributes. Hotel managers receive real-time alerts advising when pending guest reviews pop up, eliminating delays in addressing concerns and turning potential problems into new opportunities. The GRS keeps guests on the hotel's website and away from the OTA’s. In addition, travelers can share their reviews on Facebook with their network of friends, opening up avenues to new booking audiences, and again, more revenues. Lodging Interactive's Facebook Widget links comments from the hotel's website to its Facebook page in real time.

3.  Hotel FAQs: Does your hotel website answer "all" your guest's questions? If your web presence is limited to the brand site, the answer is probably "no." As a do-it-yourself or fully-managed service, Lodging Interactive will oversee a hotel's online FAQ listing, including developing questions people typically ask, sourcing the answers from the hotel, and allowing new questions to be asked by consumers online to help hotels increase conversion rates, maximize organic search and boost SEO rankings.
 
Through the HotelFAQs.info service, Lodging Interactive will add a "Check Out Our FAQs" float button for every page of the hotel's website. Standard FAQ categories are what you’d expect such as "Events & Attractions," "Accommodations," "Dining," "Meetings & Conventions," "Local Area Fun," etc., and each hotel can set up an unlimited amount of categories to meet their unique needs. When a traveler clicks on the category, he or she is navigated to the FAQ page that provides details about each topic. HotelFAQs.info easily integrates into any hotel’s Facebook page and blog.  Fully mobile compatible, HotelFAQs.info enables smartphone users to also benefit from vital FAQ content, thereby supporting and increasing mobile booking conversion rates.

4.  Social Media Monitoring & Management: Did you know that Google+ has taken over the No. 2 social media position from Twitter?  According to reports, it may even replace Facebook in the No. 1 spot in a few years. Hoteliers who are only familiar today with the top three social media channels will find themselves falling dramatically behind their competition in 2014 if they don't market themselves via Google+, Pinterest and other critical social media outlets.

If your hotel is having a tough time understanding the value of these important marketing channels, don’t ignore them.  Instead, partner with a social media engagement company that offers a turnkey service for creating and professionally managing Google+ Business Pages and boosting Search Engine Optimization positioning. One that acts as an extension of a hotel's marketing department, and takes a pro-active role in managing each property's online presence and communications to not only Google+, but to all social media networking communities.

5.  Reputation Management: Hotels of all sizes have begun to add social media technologies that monitor a hotel's or brand's online reputation, but unless those tools are being maximized, reputations and business practices can still suffer. Lodging Interactive believes that it takes people, in addition to technologies, to make reputation management effective. Lodging Interactive has teamed up with leading hospitality reputation-management companies to supplement their technology applications and provide the human resources necessary to answer guest reviews and manage guest responses on behalf of the hotel. Properties using solutions from outside reputation-management companies can outsource the social media monitoring and guest review response portion to Lodging Interactive.

"Independent hotel operators may think that they can't compete with the big boys because they lack the financial and human resources and support systems that a franchise provides — but that's a huge misconception," Vallauri said. "Through a trusted partner like Lodging Interactive, an independent hotel can benefit from the same and in many cases more comprehensive online marketing services offered by the brands, and with flexible pricing options.

"Our team of experts are tackling these issues daily for hoteliers with limited budgets. The end result is a sizeable return on owners' investments and a solid digital marketing strategy that is turning online lookers into bookers."

Lodging Interactive’s Guest Review System is Enhancing Hotel Bookings

A recent study conducted by the Cornell School of Hotel Administration confirms that online guest satisfaction has a direct impact on the financial performance of hotels. "The Impact of Social Media on Lodging Performance" report validates "a direct link between online customer satisfaction and a property's overall revenue performance." The study showed that "if a hotel increased its online review score by 1 point on a 5-point scale, the hotel can increase its price by 11.2 percent and still maintain the same occupancy or market share." Armed with this knowledge, hoteliers can immediately begin driving revenues while increasing loyalty, expanding their social media presence and improving their online reputations using the in-demand Guest Review System from Lodging Interactive.

Lodging Interactive is a leading interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. The company's Guest Review System is a web-based tool that is successfully helping hotels verify, review and display customer comments directly on hotel websites. By allowing management to respond to comments in real time, hotels are improving two-way hotel-to-guest communications and boosting guest retention and loyalty. Based on the aforementioned Cornell research, hotels can also raise average daily rates and receive higher revenues per available room without any resistance from guests.

"Industry studies continue to show that travelers consider feedback from other travelers as valuable sources of information when researching and planning a trip, and many won't make a reservation until comments have been perused," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive founder and president. "Hotels that may have thought about adding a guest review program to their websites but didn't have the time or resources to manage it, should think again now that it has been proven that an interactive guest-review process has a direct impact on revenues. Being proactive when it comes to guest reviews, really does pay off."

With the Lodging Interactive Guest Review System, hotel managers receive real-time alerts advising when pending guest reviews pop up. This eliminates delays in addressing concerns and turns potential problems into new opportunities. The system also puts a stop to fake reviews posted by competitors or dishonest guests looking for refunds, helping hotels to maintain their reputations. More importantly, directing guests to the hotel's website to post comments and reviews keeps them from being redirected to an OTA where they will never come back to book direct. Removing OTA's from the equation and taking ownership of the guest-communication process also keeps more revenues in owners' pockets. Additionally, hotels that don't have the staff or flexibility to respond in a timely manner can count on Lodging Interactive to manage the reply on their behalf.

"It's important to note that unlike the Lodging Interactive GRS, some third-party websites restrict hotels on what they can and cannot include when responding to a review," Vallauri said. "Here are five tips when responding to guest reviews:"

1. Respond immediately to a review post. Good or bad, a hotel needs to put its best foot forward; that means never issuing a "canned" response. Consumers read more than one review; make sure the response is fresh and appropriate. If possible, personalize the response by referring to the reviewer by his or her proper name and not a nickname. This is possible with the Lodging Interactive GRS, but not with many of the third-party sites. If a guest is not happy, apologize, then offer a resolution and always ask the customer to come back. For example, Lodging Interactive's GRS enables hoteliers to offer a solution to an issue by sharing a package that would have been better suited to their needs. For example, if parking fees were an issue, the hotel can offer a package with parking included for the next stay. This type of customization is restricted on many of the major review sites as well as in OTA review responses.

2. Provide contact information for ongoing communication. Managers should never sign comments as "Management," but instead provide the responder's name. This builds consumer confidence and shows guests that someone cares. With the Lodging Interactive GRS, responses can be signed by any member of the management team, not just the third-party site log-in account names (example: F&B Manager when replying to a catering issue).

3. Double check responses for content accuracy and don't use over-complicated words. A big vocabulary is not important to guests; sincerity is. Check spelling, especially the reviewer's name.

4. Be kind, never defensive. Remember: the customer is always right. Be hospitable and thank the reviewer for his or her comment, good and bad. A demeaning tone could scare away future guests for good.

5. Verify that the reviewer was actually a guest before posting the response. Knowing if a review is legitimate or not is a critical step in managing an online reputation. Lodging Interactive has the processes in place to validate the authenticity of all posted reviews.
No matter what, managers and staff should always take the time to ask guests about their stay. Always encourage guests to visit the hotel's website at their convenience and post a review. If there has been a problem, this will prompt the guest to inform management prior to leaving the property. If the attempt at a resolve fails and a negative review is still posted, management can restate their resolution offer, thereby protecting the hotel's reputation and showing other potential guests that good customer service is a top priority.

Rallying Reviews on Facebook
"Remember the 1980s Faberge Organic Shampoo commercial in which actress Heather Locklear said: 'It is so good, I told two friends about it…and they told two friends…and so on, and so on….'" Vallauri said. "Now advance 30 years. Thanks to the world wide web and social media, that same commercial could go like this: 'It was so good, I posted on Facebook, and my 200 friends told their two hundred friends and so on, and so on…..

"An added benefit of the Lodging Interactive Guest Review System is that it enables travelers to share their reviews on Facebook with their network of friends, opening up avenues to new booking audiences, and again, more revenues," Vallauri said. "Last month, Lodging Interactive created a Facebook Widget that links comments from the hotel's website to its Facebook page in real time. This enables potential guests to read guest reviews on Facebook and enables past guests to leave reviews directly on Facebook as well. Leveraging social media as a communications platform for guest reviews is a natural extension for Lodging Interactive's solution. Better yet, there is no additional cost to implement the Guest Review System on Facebook and our team will even handle the set up for the hotel.”

Hotels looking to boost revenue performance can do so easily and affordably by calling Lodging Interactive today and getting a demonstration of the Guest Review System. A video showing the value of a GRS for hospitality is available on YouTube by clicking here. For more information on the Lodging Interactive Guest Review System, visit www.guestreviewsystem.com.

Lodging Interactive Expands Reach to Australia

Regardless where in the world you own or operate a hotel, the challenge of maintaining control over the guest experience and the property or brand reputation is universal. That's why Lodging Interactive is taking its in-demand Guest Review System to Australia and New Zealand. Through a distribution partnership agreement with Australian-based Technology 4 Hotels, travelers visiting the Oceania region will be able to post their comments and reviews about hotel stays directly on each properties' website, removing Online Travel Agents (OTAs) completely from the equation.

"You can't be online today without reading something about the success hotels around the world are having with Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System," said Technology 4 Hotels Founder and Director Brendon Granger. "This product can easily be utilized in the Australian and New Zealand markets to solve a really big challenge — getting out from under the thumb of the OTAs and companies like TripAdvisor as reputation managers. Back in the late '90s, while everyone was sleeping, OTAs took a tremendous amount of business away from hotels; and TripAdvisor has the potential today to do the same. It's time the industry wakes up and takes back control of their business and their online reputations. Utilizing a tool that enables guests to post reviews directly on the hotel's website is a great first step in regaining that control. Add in the ability for managers to be alerted to comments and instantly respond, and hoteliers are back in the drivers' seat. We at Technology 4 Hotels believes that no company does this better than Lodging Interactive, and we are proud to take their GRS to market."

With customers such as Accor, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Langham Hotels International, Pan Pacific Hotels Group, Quest Serviced Apartments, Rydges Hotels & Resorts, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Stamford Hotels and Resorts, Toga Hospitality and others, Granger said he believes adoption of the Lodging Interactive GRS will spread quickly.

"Hoteliers of the right mindset and who understand the importance of social media will quickly see the benefits of the Lodging Interactive GRS as a way to polish their online images, and use vehicles such as Facebook and Twitter to not only post reviews on their pages, but to quickly see those reviews shared among their network of friends," Granger said. "And because the GRS validates that each review is being posted by a legitimate guest and not an imposter, hoteliers can rest assured that reviews posted on these channels are valid."

Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has provided hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants in more than 35 countries with proven ROI-driven online services, including: website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. Today, the company has become the hospitality industry's leading provider of interactive Internet marketing services.

"We are delighted that Technology 4 Hotels has joined our distribution network," said D.J. Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "This hotel-based guest review system ensures there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the guest leaves the property or has the opportunity to post negative reviews on third-party websites. It's a tool that hoteliers around the world have come to depend on, and we look forward to adding new properties and new brands across Oceania to our portfolio of satisfied customers."

Hotels need to stop losing business and sending potential guests to third-party review sites. Click here for a You Tube video that shows how to keep guests where they belong — writing reviews on the hotel's own website.

Lodging Interactive Facebook Widget Linking Guest Reviews from Website to Wall

Lodging Interactive has created a Facebook Widget for its popular online Guest Review System that links comments from the hotel's website to its Facebook page in real time. The Guest Review System’s Facebook widget enables potential guests to read guest reviews on Facebook and enables past guests to leave reviews directly on Facebook. 

“Leveraging Facebook as a communications platform for guest reviews is a natural extension for our Guest Review System,” said D.J. Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President. “There is no additional cost to implement the Guest Review System on Facebook and our team will even handle the set up for the hotel.”

Since 2011, a number of hotel companies have announced plans to integrate guest reviews into their own websites—either through partnerships with TripAdvisor or by launching their own programs. But relinquishing control to a third party isn't savvy with hoteliers who want to maintain complete control over their online reputations. Likewise, having the human resources and skill needed to continually scrutinize reviews and respond immediately to comments isn't always financially feasible. That's where Lodging Interactive comes in; the company is staffed to manage the review process and reply to guests' comments on the hotel's behalf.

"Some hotels rely solely on brand sites for their website, so having a proprietary landing page for guest reviews isn't an option," Vallauri said. "However, every hotel does — or can — have a Facebook page. Therefore, the Lodging Interactive Guest Review System Facebook Widget is an easy way for hoteliers to establish an online guest review repository. Now they can interact quickly and easily with guests and prospective new customers. Our Guest Review System opens up another avenue for hotel marketers to collect reviews and make them more valuable by broadening the market of readers."

Online Guest Reviews Replacing Need for Star Ratings, Surveys

According to newBrandAnalytics, in 2012 online customer reviews rose by 25 percent. In an article titled "Social Intelligence Trends for 2013," the social market intelligence group said: "The explosion of online customer feedback is transforming how businesses will use social intelligence to deliver a quality customer experience." newBrandAnalytics predicts that businesses will stop investing in solicited surveys in 2013 due to consistent, reliable and free customer feedback coming from the web via guest reviews. The company also predicts that star ratings will become a thing of the past, as they are being recognized by consumers and businesses as "misleading, unreliable and not actionable." Instead, "consumers will seek verbatim reviews in making their purchase decisions; businesses will decipher the true meaning and uncover important themes discussed in these unstructured reviews to drive improvements." 

With travelers now using smartphones and tablets for making hotel reservations, remote check-in/-out, mobile room keys, etc., hotels are fast becoming mobile-rich environments. While the dramatic shift from PCs to smartphones/tablets is providing travelers with unprecedented conveniences, it poses new challenges to owners and operators for reputation management. Should a hotel guest have a bad experience, he or she can tell the world — or at least his or her personal universe — in a matter of seconds. Lodging Interactive, hospitality's leading provider of interactive Internet marketing services, proposes that hoteliers prioritize adding online guest review processes to their websites in 2013. By responding instantly to travelers about their stay experience, hotels are improving customer relations and turning around a potentially damaging situation and much more.

Lodging Interactive Founder and President DJ Vallauri says the business intelligence driven by its Guest Review Systems is vital, and in many cases, it is replacing other costly procedures.

"Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System was hugely successful in 2012 for a number of reasons," Vallauri said. "First, GRS technology is enabling hotels to do things never before possible. By encouraging guests to leave a review on the hotel's website — not on the OTA — hotels are maintaining control over the guest experience, the guest relationship and the hotel's reputation. Directing guests to the hotel's website to post comments and reviews keeps them from being redirected to an OTA where they will never come back to book direct. By implementing a web-based Guest Review System, hotels are removing OTA's from the equation and taking ownership of the guest-communication process. Second, private replies to the guest are sometimes warranted. Lodging Interactive's GRS dashboard provides hotel managers with the reviewers email address, facilitating direct-to-guest communication. You can't do that on OTA's. Capturing this critical data goes a long way in establishing and maintaining loyalty and supporting future marketing efforts. Third, a review posted to the hotel's proprietary website gives management the ability to validate that the guest is real before the review is posted publically. Again, that can't be done on OTA's. For years hotels have turned over control of their inventory to third parties. They shouldn't be at the mercy of OTA's for guest reviews too. It's time to take a stand."

Providing a repository for online guest reviews also serves as an important way to hold employees accountable for their performance. According to newBrandAnalytics, "social intelligence will drive the real-time 360° performance evaluation system of the future." Hotels can find immediate value in using online guest feedback to "assess performance, make hiring/firing decisions, and motivate staff."

Fueling the Social Channels
Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System ensures there are no delays in communication, and the  appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property or has the opportunity to post negative reviews on third-party websites. Additionally, travelers can share their guest reviews on their Facebook wall and to their network of friends. Because the Lodging Interactive GRS validates the legitimacy of the guest, hoteliers can rest assured that reviews posted on the social channels are valid. 

Lodging Interactive is now offering a FREE 10-day trial of its Guest Review System. There is no contract to sign, no credit card required, and hotels can cancel anytime. Click here to begin.

"There has never been a more critical time for hotels to add an online Guest Review System to their websites and social media channels, especially since close to 50 percent of consumers said they will not book a hotel that doesn’t have online reviews (Forrester Research)," Vallauri said. "If you don't have the time, knowledge or resources to manage this process, Lodging Interactive is here to help — affordably."

Roman Aluisy Joins Lodging Interactive as Director of Business Development

Lodging Interactive is proud to welcome hospitality industry veteran Roman Aluisy as Director of Business Development. As the interactive and social media marketing agency continues to introduce new services and robust business models for hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants, Aluisy will use his expertise in business planning, sales and marketing, vendor relations, financial analysis, management, and process implementation to grow the company's portfolio.

"Roman has been helping hotels market themselves since the early 1990s, and has a clear understanding of what a hotel goes through from an outsider looking in," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive President and Founder. "His full-service hospitality sales background, from soliciting print advertising to hotels at Hotel Travel Index to selling hotel franchises and reservations technology makes him ideal for this business development role. As travelers' adoption of the Internet and mobile devices continues to reshape the hospitality and travel landscapes, Lodging Interactive is positioned to assist General Managers, Revenue Managers and Directors of Sales and Marketing by giving them back the precious time they lost in trying to manage online marketing and social media processes themselves. It is this service message that Roman will take to his infinite contacts across the hospitality sector, thereby growing our website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management business exponentially in 2013."

Prior to joining Lodging Interactive, Aluisy served as sales manager for InnVite CRS powered by InnLink LLC and director of business development for REZlink International. On the hotel front, Aluisy worked as sales and marketing consultant to Vantage Hospitality, regional vice president of franchise sales and development for Country Hearth Inns & Suites, and director of franchise sales and development for both Suburban Lodges of America (Southeast) and Cendant Corp. (now Wyndham Hotel Group). He is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston.

"The one thing that is always working against us is time; people are asked to do more, but the amount of time they have to accomplish the task remains constant," Aluisy said. "Lodging Interactive is all about freeing up hoteliers' time to do more important tasks, like providing personalized service to guests and leaving the complicated and somewhat confusing job of social media management and online marketing to the experts. Lodging Interactive has an impressive team of analysts that manage online marketing processes daily for hundreds of hotels, creating, hosting, managing, responding, planning and coordinating on a hotel's behalf so they can do what they do best: put heads in beds and make sure the guests' stay is as enjoyable as possible.

"DJ Vallauri is a visionary, and Lodging Interactive is setting hoteliers up to be successful today and long into the future," he said. "It is the entrepreneurial culture of Lodging Interactive that attracted me to this job, along with the company's impeccable reputation. Lodging Interactive customers really enjoy working with us and our employees are proud of the jobs they are doing. The bottom line is that Lodging Interactive will be extremely successful in 2013, and the hotel companies that partner with us will be equally as successful and well positioned to socialize and engage with their target audiences."

Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has been providing hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants in over 35 countries with proven ROI-driven online services. Hugely successful in 2012 was the adoption of Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System which enables guests to post comments about their stay experience directly on the hotel's website and provides hotel management with the ability to respond in real time when reviews are received. Replying to reviews is giving travelers confidence that they are booking at a hotel that will take care of their needs. Aluisy will continue to expand awareness of the Lodging Interactive GRS in 2013 to ensure that the 71% of travelers who say they want a way to read and post reviews online (according to Forrester Research and TripAdvisor) have the opportunity to do so.

If your hotel needs to be seen in 2013, then it's time to call Roman Aluisy at 877-291-4411 x705.

Lodging Interactive More Than Doubles its Growth and Service Offering in 2012

The adage "You can never have too much of a good thing" is ringing true to hundreds of hoteliers worldwide who received extraordinary Internet marketing services from Lodging Interactive and its subsidiary CoMMingle this year. Over the last 12 months, the interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry racked up an unprecedented list of accomplishments. 

"2012 was a very good year for Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle, but it was even more impactful for our customers," said Founder and President DJ Vallauri. "We planned to introduce a few new services and robust business models, but once we got rolling, ideas for even more breakthrough services were proposed. Thanks to the creativity and expertise of the Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle teams, we provided more new services to hotels in 2012 than in the last 10 years combined. From limited-time FREE audits to full-service website design and management, social media marketing, mobile marketing, and measurement and accountability services, 2012 was truly a banner year for Lodging Interactive."

Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has provided hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants in over 35 countries with proven ROI-driven online services, including: website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. In 2012 alone, the company achieved a 85% increase in growth, a 40% increase in staffing, and more than doubled the number of services it now offers to hotels — some of which are absolutely FREE of charge to its customers.

In 2012, Lodging Interactive earned the following for website design:

• Three Interactive Media Awards™ for Outstanding Achievement in the Hotels/Resorts category for its website design of the Marriott Burlington in Massachusetts, the Denver Renaissance in Colorado and the Doubletree Oak Brook in Illinois by the Interactive Media Council Inc. This was the third consecutive year that Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle was recognized by the IMC for its aptitude in designing, developing, managing, supporting and promoting hotel websites.

• The Silver Magellan Award from Travel Weekly for the Courtyard by Marriott Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Fla.

• Two Web Awards / Hotel and Lodging Standard of Excellence from the Web Marketing Assn. for the Courtyard by Marriott Ft. Lauderdale Beach and the Marriott Burlington in Massachusetts.

• The 2012 Silver Award / Creative Excellence in Hotel and Lodging from the International Academy of the Visual Arts for the Courtyard by Marriott Ft. Lauderdale Beach.

Like its coveted website design service, Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System also was in high demand in 2012. The hotel-based guest comment system enables guests to post comments about their hotel experience and provides hotel management with the ability to respond in real time when reviews are received. The Guest Review System ensures there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property or has the opportunity to post negative reviews on third-party websites. Additionally, travelers can share their guest reviews on their Facebook wall and to their network of friends.

The success of the Guest Review System spurred Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle to develop and introduced the following new Internet marketing services this year:

• HotelWebShows — A service enabling hotel marketers to add a personal touch to their websites by using crisp HD Video. All video produced through HotelWebShows by Lodging Interactive are 1080i quality and delivered in TV, Web and Mobile formats. Videos are available in 30 second, 60 second and 90 second lengths, and will include music and graphics.

• CoMMingle Social + — A service for hoteliers managing their own Facebook and Twitter accounts but who also want to get involved in the new, emerging social engagement channels such as Google+ Business Page and Pinterest, but do not have the resources in-house to handle it. CoMMingle Social+ adds weekly postings on Facebook and Twitter for hotels that have pages but find it hard to consistently post during the week.

• InnterACT Performance Portal — A website analytics and social service providing real-time website analytics, key performance metrics, and the latest social media monitoring tools. The InnterACT online client portal was made available to existing customers at no cost.

• Hotel Website Solutions — A service offering online marketing services at a low, monthly fee with all upfront costs removed. The service includes website design and management, reputation management, search engine marketing, real-time analytics and accountability, PLUS Lodging Interactive's Content Management System and its coveted Guest Review System.

• Mobile Website Development — A FREE service made available to all new customers contracting full agency services, including website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. Through this service, hotels received up to 10 static pages of their online website in a mobile format, with an option to purchase more.

To help its customers stay competitive, Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle also offered the following FREE services:

• FREE Website Audit — Determines if a website is performing properly and achieving rankings
• FREE Social Media Analytics Reporting Tool — Delivers weekly analytics about a hotel's activity on the top social media networks, including: Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Google+ and blogs.
• FREE Content Management Systems + FREE Mobile Website.

"To say we were busy in 2012 is an understatement," Vallauri said. "In addition to creating a bevvy of new services to keep our customers performing successfully, we managed to show support to our brand partners and industry associations as well. In 2012, Lodging Interactive became a Best Western Preferred Vendor, and we support the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Assn. International (HSMAI) and the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. We also participated in select industry conferences and events to network with our customers.

"While being visible is important to Lodging Interactive, it's far more important for us to ensure that our customers are visible via the various online and social media channels and that their online reputations are being properly scrutinized and managed," he said. "This new year, those who partner with Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle will be well positioned to socialize and engage with their target audiences. If your hotel needs to be seen in 2013, then it's time to call Lodging Interactive."

Absence of a Guest Review System Could Land Your Hotel on the NAUGHTY List

Looking for the "gift that keeps on giving" this holiday season? A gift that gives travelers a feeling of appreciation, knowing their personal service requests have been heard? What about a gift for owners that improves the hotel's perceptions in the online marketplace and impacts purchasing decisions of future guests, resulting in a more healthy bottom line? This ideal gift is not a specialty item, nor is it a here-today/gone-tomorrow fad. It's something that 71% of travelers say they want and 68% say determines whether or not they at your hotel, according to Forrester Research and TripAdvisor. This gift is the Guest Review System available from Lodging Interactive.

Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System is hotel-based guest comment system which enables guests to post comments about their hotel experience and provides hotel management with the ability to respond in real time when reviews are received. The Guest Review System ensures there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property or has the opportunity to post negative reviews on third-party websites. Additionally, travelers can share their guest reviews on their Facebook wall and to their network of friends. If the legitimacy of a negative review is in question, hoteliers can validate guest stay information before reviews are posted on their website, providing hotels with complete control on which reviews are made public.

Do You Hear What I Hear?
"No matter how great the service, there will always be a Scrooge ready to write a bad review," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "Oftentimes complaints are justified and demand an immediate response and resolution. Other times, the rant is simply a bad seed planted by a competitor looking to give the hotel a black eye. Nonetheless, each provides a critical opportunity for the hotel to put its best foot forward."

A 2011 Forrester study found that close to 50 percent of consumers will not book a hotel that doesn’t have online reviews. Likewise, PhocusWright reports that people who read online hotel reviews are 59 percent more likely to book. Hoteliers can't afford to ignore these statistics, yet many still do. As of August, only 32% of hotels worldwide are responding to reviews, according to a recent Tnooz article. That leaves a large universe of hoteliers who are turning a blind eye to their customers. The hotels that are engaging with guests are seeing a 6% increase in review scores (Tnooz).

"Replying to reviews gives travelers confidence that they are booking at a hotel that will take care of their needs," Vallauri said. "Even responses to negative reviews written about a hotel makes 79% of travelers feel reassured, according to Forrester researchers. In today's economy, giving guests assurance and comfort is critical to gaining market share and boosting occupancy, average daily rate, revenue per available room and the bottom line. Investing in a Guest Review System is a small price to pay for loyalty and repeat business."

The Guest Review System from Lodging Interactive is low cost and can be implemented in about 10 minutes. All that is required for a hotel to get up-and-running is a snippet of code inserted on the hotel's Website. Once initiated, managers can immediately begin collecting real-time reviews on their own websites and respond to customer concerns in real time. As an option, the company is staffed to reply on the hotel's behalf if staffing is an issue.

"Lodging Interactive can help hotels that may have had below average guest-satisfaction scores move from the NAUGHTY to NICE list easily while rebuilding credibility, restoring consumer confidence, and regaining lost business from third-party review sites simply by adding our Guest Review System to their websites," Vallauri said. "It's easy to win guests' over — even before they arrive — simply by posting your position about guest service, immediately fixing what may be broke, and saying 'thank you' to those who complement you for a job well done."

The following are the Top 10 Rants and Raves in 2012 based on a survey of 1 million guest reviews that landed hotels on either the NAUGHTY or NICE list as reported on Tnooz:

 NAUGHTY
  1. Unprofessional/incompetent service (11,785 mentions)
  2. Small room (8,669 mentions)
  3. Expensive/overpriced (8,390 mentions)
  4. Tasteless, bad breakfast (8,243 mentions)
  5. Bad food (5,956 mentions)
  6. Dirty room (5,439 mentions)
  7. Unfriendly service (5,123 mentions)
  8. Bad bathroom (4,600 mentions)
  9. Bad service (4,266 mentions)
 10. Loud, noisy room (4,123 mentions)

  NICE
  1. Friendly, professional, efficient service (103,440 mentions)
  2. Great, well-situated location (98,668 mentions)
  3. Good room (40,191 mentions)
  4. Great food (42,868 mentions)
  5. Great breakfast (41,356 mentions)
  6. Clean room/hotel (27,513 mentions)
  7. Large room (23,867 mentions)
  8. Good, affordable price (23,292 mentions)
  9. Good bed (11,369 mentions)
 10. Nice view (9,147 mentions)

"Travelers have no problem telling the world what they like and don't like about your hotel," Vallauri said. "It's important that hoteliers take the NICE approach to their response: Be thankful, polite, and respectful of guests, even if the complaint is not warranted. Remain calm and always be courteous. Tell the guest how the situation will be addressed and what the next steps are. Tell the guest that you deem the complaint to be serious, and that there is a plan in place to resolve the matter. More importantly, give each guest a way to stay in touch with management, and invite further feedback."

Lodging Interactive Fall Podcast IDs Top 4 Must-Have Digital Marketing Tools for 2013

With Fall now upon us and hoteliers knee-deep in the budget-planning process for 2013, there's no time like the present for hotel owners and managers to focus on their social media marketing initiatives for the coming year. HotelCast 2.0, a free podcast produced by Lodging Interactive, is LIVE and offering up-to-date information on the latest tools and comprehensive strategies needed to implement an effective online marketing plan.

"Making a few postings on your property’s Facebook page or sending out a few tweets is barely scratching the surface of what a successful social media marketing strategy should be," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "Social media has become an everyday part of consumers' global travel habits. Hotels that are not fully utilizing its power are missing the boat when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. In just 10 minutes, HotelCast 2.0 will identify how hoteliers can start putting the power of online and social media marketing to work for them. And, if the people or financial resources aren't readily available, we offer a solution for that too."

As part of its Fall podcast, Lodging Interactive identifies four key ingredients to initiating an effective, yet affordable, digital marketing campaign. From refreshing websites and taking a hands-on role in managing guest reviews to mobilizing web content and monitoring social media channels, the podcast lists ways properties can make the 2013 budgeting process a little easier and a lot more effective.

"Social media management and online marketing can be overwhelming for even the most experienced marketer," Vallauri said. "Time and budget constraints are just a small part of the problem. The good news is, Lodging Interactive and our outsourced social media marketing agency, CoMMingle, can help by taking the necessary tasks off hoteliers shoulders. CoMMingle provides website solutions, full guest review management, and complete social media marketing and engagement at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time social media person."

Click to listen to HotelCast 2.0

A big part of social media marketing for hospitality is managing guest reviews. In HotelCast 2.0, hear what noted travel writer and guide book author Arthur Frommer had to say about online guest reviews. If your hotel hasn't taken the proper steps to manage this controversial  subject, Lodging Interactive has the solution, its Guest Review System and even offers a free trial! HotelCast 2.0 tells listeners how they can manage guest reviews at NO cost, with NO contract to sign, and with NO cancellation restrictions.

Finally, is your hotel taking advantage of the power of QR codes to engage with new and existing customer? HotelCast 2.0 identifies how businesses are using these little boxes of code to open up a plethora of social media marketing opportunities. With consumers scanning QR codes 5.3 million times in the month of June alone, there's no time to waste with getting on board.